Jack Carnell takes an in depth look at the relationship between the two figures at the head of the Labour Party.
However as of the 20th of January, Ed Balls has taken up the post of shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and everything has changed. Now the leader who has a slight resemblance to Wallace has a Gromit. Balls has a bark that matches his bite and is rightly named Labours only attack dog. Since becoming Shadow Chancellor, Balls has written a damning article about Coalition economic policy, appeared all over the media claiming “things are going in the wrong direction” and whilst feeling particularly blood thirsty, pulled a variety of ministers out of their offices and in to the chamber to sink his teeth into, just for fun.
His accession doesn’t look good for Cameron and Osborne. Up until now Cameron has had to deal with an inexperienced Ed Miliband. But as Miliband is gaining commons experience battling at the box, he is also gaining a sidekick in the intelligent and skillful Balls, ready to step in if he drops the baton. As for Osborne, rather than going up against a former union man; he is up against a fellow Oxford grad, a fellow economist and a fellow strategist. Far from simply towing the party the line, Balls has shaped Labour policy for years and knows the whole lot like the back of his paw.
So, how will the new partnership fair in the public eye? Will they be as popular as the plastercine Nick Parke creations or well they melt under the spot light? Well, Balls is not perfect, he helped devise many of the disastrous policies of the Brown era, but he certainly breathes life into the limp Labour front bench. Publicly at least the two Ed’s have put aside their differences over a late night chat, but time will tell if the former leadership rivals can really work together for the greater good of the party. One of the main reasons Balls didn’t get elected was that the party didn’t feel his abrasive nature could appeal to the majority and he, like Gromit, is rarely smiling! However, if the pair really can put such things aside, Milibands speech impediment and slight overbite can give the duo a friendlier face. If Balls can work around the softer apologetic approach of his boss, doing what he does best, then they could present a ‘no nonsense’ yet warm front to the voting public, a winning combination.
Is there hope for the coalition? There is. Despite the Labour Party having a formidable top two, the coalition still fields a far superior front bench. The Conservatives have spent years battling in opposition and have enormous experience when contrasted with the fledgling Labour bench. However, the cuts are coming and Labour is revving up its rhetoric. Well lead and feeding off public dislike for austerity measures, if Ed and Ed don’t fall apart then it’s likely they could do significant damage to the coalition.
We must bear in mind though that the reason Johnson got the position over Balls in the first place was due to disagreement over party policy. It is also important to remember the lessons of history. Balls wields significant power with Labour MP’s and we have all seen the problems of vesting too much power in you’re second. Perhaps Miliband is right to keep his friends close and his enemies closer. It is certainly a good idea for Ed Miliband to keep one eye on ‘the big dog’.